Innovation: Exploring the Unknown

Time for a Little Astronomy Lesson

Think of the market’s greatest companies as stars in the galaxy. The giant stars burn the hottest but live the shortest lives. They are powerful and profound, yet unsustainable. Some of the “giant stars” of our time are Kodak, Blockbuster, and Sears. All of these companies used to dominate their industries. They had great ideas but they stopped innovating once they rose to the top. Kodak failed to adapt to digital photography, Blockbuster couldn’t keep up with video streaming services, and Sears neglected the dominance of online retail. These companies did not think in long terms and suffered as a result.

The smaller stars (ex. our sun) don’t burn quite as hot as the giant ones but are much more sustainable. They are still larger than most of the stars in our galaxy but are small enough to maintain longevity. Some of the “smaller stars” of our time are Amazon, IBM, and Google. All of these companies are constantly innovating and growing into new territories. Amazon¬†started off as an online bookstore, then grew into the largest online retailer in the world…but they didn’t stop there. They have also firmly established themselves with music, video, applications, cloud computing, smart-home devices, grocery, and many more. Just when you think they’ve found their way into every market, they continue to expand into new territories. IBM has fought off disruptors by constantly evolving their computer hardware and is now a pioneer for the artificial intelligence movement. Google started off as a simple search engine 20 years ago and has grown exponentially since then. They’ve introduced their own email platform, cloud services, smartphones, video, artificial intelligence, and even self-driving cars. As long as these companies continue to innovate, they are here to stay.



Staying Ahead of the Game

person s playing chess
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Innovation is the driving factor that keeps businesses afloat. In order to stay competitive, businesses must be constantly evolving. Some companies have their bread and butter and like to focus on what they are good at. They adopt the “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” ideology. However, while their daily driver is working well, they should be focusing on growing other sectors of their company, along with starting brand new ones. In today’s competitive market, it is important to stay 10 steps ahead of the competition. In order to do this, businesses must explore unknown territories. Exploring these unknown territories does come with a bit of a risk.

What I found was that all great innovators actively seek out new problems to solve. In other words, they not only continue to hone their existing processes and practices, they go actively look for areas where they can make an impact. These are, by definition, highly speculative and hard to predict, with lost of blind alleys and wrong turns, but they pay off in the end. -Greg Satell

It is easy for a company to stick to what they know, especially when they have achieved success. This aligns well with individuals entering the job market. They know what they are good at and want to focus on just that. Although it is important to invest most of your time into sharpening your strengths, you will experience much more growth by stepping outside of your comfort zone and exploring the unknown. You will become much more diversified and marketable in the long-run. If there is any lesson to be learned from Kodak, Blockbuster, and Sears, it is to never stop innovating and always think long-term. Once you rise to the top, the only way to stay there is to explore the unknown.


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